3 evidence-based strategies for people living with coronary heart disease

The Bottom Line

  • Coronary heart disease contributes to illness, disability, and death worldwide, but treatments continue to evolve.
  • If you are living with coronary heart disease, exercising, quitting smoking, and accessing nurse-led clinics can help to improve your health and quality of life, while reducing risks for further complications, including death.
  • Discuss how you can safely try these evidence-based strategies with your healthcare team.

Coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease, is a collection of diseases caused by the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (1-3). Coronary heart disease contributes to illness, disability, and death worldwide (2-4). Treatments, however, continue to evolve and people are living longer with this disease (1).

Let us look at three evidence-based strategies you can implement to help improve your health and quality of life while living with coronary heart disease (1;4;5). Click on the links below to learn more.

1. Exercise

Research shows that in the short-term, exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation, where exercise is the central focus of a rehabilitation program, can improve health-related quality of life and reduce the risk of heart attack, hospital admissions, and death from any cause in people living with coronary heart disease. Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation is generally deemed to be safe, but you should talk to your healthcare team before starting (1).

2. Quitting smoking

Compelling research shows the benefits of quitting smoking if you are living with coronary heart disease. Benefits can include reducing the risk of future cardiovascular events and death from cardiovascular disease by about one-third, compared to those who continue to smoke. More research is needed to enhance the evidence base (4). Reach out to your healthcare team for information on available supports that you can lean on to help you quit smoking.

3. Nurse-led clinics

Nurse-led clinics are clinics staffed by nurses and nurse-practitioners that provide primary care, management of chronic diseases and conditions, referrals to other services and health education and promotion (6). Research shows that nurse-led clinics can significantly reduce the risk of death from all causes in people living with cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease. They can also be effective in helping patients consistently take their medications as prescribed, and in maintaining healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet. Future research is needed to learn more about long-term benefits, as well as how best to implement nurse-led clinics (5).

Exercising, quitting smoking, and accessing care from nurse-led clinics can be effective strategies for people living with coronary heart disease. 

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Author Details


  1. Dibben G, Faulkner J, Oldridge N, et al. Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation for coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021; 11:CD001800. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001800.pub4.
  2. World Health Organization. The top 10 causes of death. [Internet] 2020. [cited July 2023]. Available from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death.
  3. Chen Y, Tsai J, Liou Y, et al. Effectiveness of endurance exercise training in patients with coronary artery disease: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2017; 16(5):397-408. doi: 10.1177/1474515116684407.
  4. Wu AD, Lindson N, Hartmann-Boyce J, et al. Smoking cessation for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022; 8:CD014936. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD014936.pub2.
  5. Al-Mallah MH, Farah I, Al Madani W, et al. The impact of nurse-led clinics on the mortality and morbidity of patients with cardiovascular diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2015.  
  6. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Nurse practitioner-led clinics. [Internet] 2022. [cited July 2023]. Available from https://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/np_clinics/default.aspx

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